About VIRS as a pathway to UBC:

Should I come to UBC as a VIRS (Visiting International Research student)?

Your program, pathways and contacts at UBC all depend on a crucial distinction of whether you plan to come to UBC to do Salaried Research (as an employee) or whether the research is part of your educational program requirement (as a student).

Use the first two levels of the chart to determine the right path to follow. Follow the column of information straight down to understand what each pathway entails.

flow chart of different ways a student can come to UBC for research
Helpful acronyms
  • LMIA - Labour Market Impact Assessment
  • IRCC - Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (formely known as Citizenship and Immigration Canada)
Related links (Non VIRS)

Applying to be a VIRS student at UBC

What immigration document should I apply for as a VIRS student?

The Visiting International Research Student Program (VIRS) is considered full-time studies for which accepted students will be engaged in research under the supervision of a UBC faculty member. Furthermore, the research a student will engage in forms a student-institution relationship and not an employment relationship with UBC.

The type of immigration document is dependent on the length of research you are approved for as part of your VIRS application.

If your research is less than six months, you may complete your research under visitor status for which you will need to apply for a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), depending on your country of citizenship. However, we strongly recommend that you apply for a study permit as it is easier to extend your stay from within Canada (if this is applicable).

If your research period is six months or longer in length, VIRS students must apply for a study permit, as required by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Please see tutorial for how to apply for your study permit.

Note, you cannot begin your research without appropriate immigration documents and legal status.

What is a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)?

A Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) is required to enter Canada as a visitor. Depending on your country of citizenship/nationality, you will either need a TRV or eTA but not both.

You can find out which document you need by visiting Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)’s website.

If you are applying for a study permit, you do not need to apply separately for a TRV or eTA.

How do I apply for a study permit?

Once you are accepted as a VIRS student, you can apply for a study permit. An initial study permit application must be made outside of Canada to the visa office responsible for your country of citizenship or the country in which you are currently residing.

Please see our tutorial for detailed steps on how to apply for your study permit.

If your study permit application is approved, you will be issued a Letter of Introduction which you will present to the border officer when entering Canada so that they can issue you your study permit.

You must have a valid study permit before you can begin your research at UBC under the Visiting International Research Students program (VIRS).

Can I work as a VIRS student?

As a VIRS student, you are considered full time for immigration purposes (see UBC definitions for immigration purposes).

You are eligible to work on campus in jobs not related to your research if you are are full time (see above) and have a valid study permit. Please note that you are only eligible to work during the dates you are a VIRS students.

You are not eligible to work off campus as you are not enrolled in a program that leads to a degree, diploma or certificate at UBC.

Please visit the International Student Guide for an overview of working in Canada and obtaining a Social Insurance Number.

Funding, scholarships and reimbursements

If I have been granted a scholarship that exceeds my research period for more than 12 months, can I be admitted for the entire sponsored research period?

We request that you provide a copy of the scholarship document to UBC Go Global along with your VIRS application form. If accepted, your Letter of Acceptance will reflect the actual length of your visit to support your study permit application. However, each VIRS registration is effective for a maximum of one year, therefore you must apply for a renewal of the VIRS registration and pay the renewal fee by the end of the first year of your visit.

Can I be employed to do research at UBC?

No, you may not be employed as the Visiting International Research Students (VIRS) pathway offers an opportunity to engage in research education to international students pursuing degrees abroad. As a result, the research you will engage in is considered integral to your program as a student and not an employment relationship between you and UBC. An employment relationship related to research would necessitate a work permit.

VIRS students may receive reimbursement for expenses but the decision is at the discretion of the UBC host supervisor and their department.

What type of funding is available to VIRS students

VIRS students are usually self-funded, sponsored by his/her home institution, or receive funding from an external source. Your UBC faculty member may agree to provide a reimbursement for some of your expenses from UBC, however this decision is at the discretion of your UBC faculty member who has agreed to act as your host supervisor, as well as the department with which your host supervisor is affiliated.

Courses, records + transcripts

Will my research activities be shown on a UBC transcript?

Yes, your non-credit and non-tuition bearing course that reflects your academic level at your home institution (i.e. Undergraduate, Masters, or PhD) will appear on the student’s transcript. You may order official transcripts online or in person.

Can I audit courses while at UBC?

No, you cannot formally audit courses. If you wish to audit or take courses, you must apply to become a visiting undergraduate or graduate student. Upon admission into the Visiting undergraduate or graduate student pathway, you will lose your VIRS status, but can still continue with your research activities if agreed upon by your UBC Supervisor.

Accessing health insurance, and UBC student services

What kind of medical insurance plan will I have?

You are automatically enrolled in the mandatory iMed temporary health insurance plan. You will be charged for the first three months upon VIRS registration (if your research period is six months or longer) or for the duration of your study period (if your research is less than six months). If you need additional coverage, you are responsible for extending coverage.If your research period is longer than six months, you must apply for the BC Medical Insurance Plan (MSP). You may apply for this plan as soon as you arrive in BC.

Am I eligible for the U-Pass?

No, you are not eligible as no tuition or AMS fees are assessed upon VIRS registration. The U-Pass offers UBC students unlimited access to public transportation across the Metro Vancouver area.

Do I have access to the gym and Aquatics Centre?

Yes, you have access to the gym and Aquatic Centre at a discount drop-in rate. Unfortunately, you are not eligible for student membership as you are not taking credit-bearing courses and paying tuition and student fees to UBC.

Application, fees + study permits

Resources for coming to UBC


Mathew Lyle

Email enquiries + advising appointments

When emailing us, please include your full name and student number in the subject line.

Mathew Lyle

VIRS Advisor

Go Global

Telephone: 604 822 0942

UBC Life Building
1001 - 6138 Student Union Boulevard
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1